Finding the Edge

The other night I tried to explain to a girlfriend why it is that I’ve never felt sexually attracted to one of my good guy friends. A guy who is smart, good-looking and highly personable. One of those “good men” who are supposed to be so hard–if not impossible–for a woman to find.

“Is he nerdy?” she asked.

“Kind of,” I said. “But not really.”

“Is he boring?”

“Nope. Totally interesting. Has tons of hobbies.”

“Is he, like, incapable of irony or sarcasm?”

I told her I thought that was a good guess, but also off the mark. “He’s actually really funny and can definitely be sarcastic.”

“So, what is it then?”

I could not give her a truly satisfactory answer. I remarked that other women I know who have met this guy agree that he is someone I probably should be attracted to, but recognize why I’m not. The closest I could come was to say that he lacked an edge.

“I think guys need to have an edge,” I said. “Whatever that is.”

For the past few days I have become obsessed with pinpointing what, exactly, that is. And I have been grasping. It’s not about type or style: I can think of conservative guys who have it and more alternative ones who don’t.

Not surprisingly, I’ve attempted to consult any available girlfriends on the question. Tonight I talked to one of my NY best friends and asked her what she thought.

“Didn’t you kinda feel that was missing with the lawyer guy?” she asked. She was right: “the lawyer guy” she referred to is my Missed Connection–the one I met on the subway and convinced myself I was in love with even though my attraction, post-initial-sighting, was always a but tenuous.

“Yeah,” I said. “He was just so…nice.”

And there we have it, ladies. I fear that the elusive “edge” that I, and so very many of us require in a male is really just a little bit of mean-ness.

I once dated a guy–by all accounts good and nice–who always joked that he was careful to be just enough of an ass hole to keep women interested.

Funny, but true.

I always like to reject cliches. Especially when they sound toxic and anti-feminist, such as the one that says women don’t go for nice guys. But this is one that I might have to kinda embrace. Kinda.

I think, though, that most of us do want guys who are good: who treat us well, who are chivalrous and kind and respectful. (And of course, tell us frequently that we are beautiful. Ahem.) We don’t–okay, most of us don’t–want guys who are straight up jerks.

We just want good guys who come across as having the potential to sometimes, maybe, be a little bit mean.

For me I wonder if part of it is feeling like I’m not the nicest person–frankly I’m pretty darn judgmental–and want a partner who has got some of that in him too.

And I also wonder if there is some primitive hormonal instinct at work: we feel better and safer with someone who seems like he could break another man’s nose if he had to.

You know, who seems like he has an edge.

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11 Comments

Filed under Love Life

11 responses to “Finding the Edge

  1. A

    Hmm…for me it isn’t that they can’t be nice. But if I think that they will let me walk all over them (I guess this is a part of being too nice) than it is all over. I actually really like men who are kind (or “nice’)…they just also have to convince me that they would stand up for themselves (not physically, of course) if I am being a jerk to them.

  2. Jos

    Are you sure you it’s mean-ness? I am thinking it’s about him having a strength– that he isn’t totally looking to you for decisions and guidance– but that he knows himself and is secure within that. I think men feel the same way about us. It feels safer, somehow, to be with a person who makes his own choices and doesn’t bend to our every whim (because I, for one, have a lot of whims and sometimes, I actually don’t want him to bend to them)– which, okay, is a little bit like mean-ness, maybe.

    • Thanks for the comments, ladies. I’m not sure it’s mean-ness, and I do think that strength is part of it. But the guy I was writing about in this post is definitely strong, secure and confident. My friend used the word “macho” to describe the mean-ness thing–maybe that encompasses…something. I definitely also like guys who are generally “nice,” they just can’t be sooooo nice that they lack that macho-y, slightly mean, edgy thing.

  3. jh

    i definitely identify with what A commented above. also i think it’s a bit of mystery, which is funny because i, like you, joke sometimes that i lack that in myself….but not like a weird game hiding thing, just that there is more to find out and discover…not necessarily in terms of “information” or some sordid past, just more about what it means to be with the person. That there’s some feeling that as you’d get to know one another, there’d be layers to peel away and reveal —like there’re these aspects of another person that would only be accessed through a deeper, more intimate relationship/experience with them. mystery, but not deception.

    Sometimes people just cultivate this air of mystery to make themselves seem more interesting or alluring—that’s when it moves more into the realm of a game and makes people (a lot of times this seems to happen with us women, but actually, i think it totally happens with men too) really feel like they want to be the one to crack the code. it hooks you!–and it just becomes more of a way of that person masking what actually might be truly interesting and beautiful but in a more vulnerable, honest way.

  4. ep

    “I once dated a guy–by all accounts good and nice–who always joked that he was careful to be just enough of an ass hole to keep women interested.”

    I’m about to marry a guy who says the same thing. It drives me nuts. But, to a certain extent it allows me not to feel so bad when I’m an asshole to him. His dumb ass comments often serve the purpose of keeping me in check, helping me to maintain my sense of humor, and even prompting discussions between us about where the line is (lines are?) that just shouldn’t be crossed. There’s a healthy (and fun) amount of push back between us that I don’t think there would be if either of us was too concerned with being “nice” all the time.

  5. lil' brown girl

    I have to agree with A. You don’t want to be with a man that you feel like you can walk all over. But me and my chicas do talk about the “coolness” vs. “vanilla.” Some guys are great but they’re just so vanilla. But the guy who is so f’ing cool and fun is unemployed, flaky, and lives in a den of slack. I’m still keeping faith you can find a guy with that combination of vool/edge and grown-up stability 😉
    besos,
    lbg

    PS Have you written anything on suedo-boyfriends? This is my current struggle right now and I know it can’t just be me 😉

    • Hmmm…I don’t think I’ve touched on this issue! Do you mean close guy friends who become companions or guys you date casually with whom things don’t get more serious? Tell me more and I’m sure I can find a story!

      • lil' brown girl

        Defining the suedo boyfriend:

        scenario 1 – you basically date/call/act like significant others but for whatever reason you don’t want to label it. But everyone else does. Note: the commitment level may be slightly less ie no required family functions for example.

        scenario 2 – you’ve dated before and for various grown up reasons called it quits/took a break. However you begin to hang out again not as frequently as in the past but enough for your gf’s to comment on it. You still fb with one another, he texts you during Grey’s and maybe you invite one another to a show…randomly.

        Welcome to suedo dating….you should really write about this.

        besos,
        lbg (scenario dos)

  6. rp

    Ooo this is a juicy one that everyone wants to respond to… I agree with it being hard to define what that “edge” and need for it is… And I also agree that maybe it’s not just meanness… Maybe sass gets closer to it? Or a guy with bite? Keeps you on your toes, challenges you in a he-didn’t-just-offend-me but my adrenaline is rising and I am flustered but feel strongly about having a response!…??

  7. E

    I don’t really know how to respond to this. I know what you are talking about because I have definitely been attracted to some guys who range from having a bit of meanness to those who are downright assholes. For me, it’s more of an attention thing. If someone is going out of their way to give me a hard time, it usually also means that they are teasing me about something they notice that perhaps others don’t. Because they are being observant and also giving me attention, I am drawn in because I feel special and validated, in some strange way.

    However, my current person of interest is extremely nice, and has none of the hang-ups that my past interests have had. He has this great combo of gentlemanly sweetness and politeness, but also knows when to take charge of the situation, and is not afraid to ask me what I want/ how I’m feeling. It is also nice because he will stand up for himself and what he believes in if I push him. He doesn’t play games and I have learned to get out of the old routines with him, which is why I think this whole set up works alright. I’m finding that I enjoy that more positive attention even more, and don’t miss the ‘edge.’ At least not yet 🙂

    • E

      When I used the phrase ‘push him to,’ I meant that when I try to push him away or am being argumentative about something, he doesn’t have a problem standing up to me, which I like. If there is an injustice in the world around him that is really unacceptable, he will stand up without being pushed. Sorry for any word confusion. The breakdown of language occurs with the increase of stress .

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